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US Air Force Awards SandboxAQ Quantum Navigation Research Contract

Google’s quantum spinout is developing a quantum alternative to GPS

John Potter

February 2, 2023

1 Min Read
Six USAF aircraft flying information over the ocean
The deal aims to boost position, navigation and timing capabilities in deprived environmentsU.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Hannah Malone

The United States Air Force (USAF) has awarded SandboxAQ, the quantum and AI spinout from Google’s parent company Alphabet, a Direct-to-Phase-II Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) contract to advance quantum navigation technologies.

SandboxAQ will use the funding to continue developing its quantum navigation system, which aims to supplement the Global Positioning System (GPS) for precise navigation in degraded or contested environments where the loss of precision GPS could adversely affect operations.

The company will optimize its AI and quantum-powered quantum sensor prototype across several identified innovation areas in close collaboration with the USAF, including onboard demonstrations aboard its aircraft. 

“AI and quantum-powered navigation technology has great potential to be part of a comprehensive and resilient assured positioning, navigation and timing solution across all domains and military service branches as well as for the Federal Aviation Administration and NASA,” said SandboxAQ public sector president Jen Sovada.

“It also offers tremendous dual-use promise in the commercial sector for areas such as commercial aviation, unmanned vehicles, and logistics. We look forward to sharing the results of this exciting step forward.”

Related:US Air Force Engages SandboxAQ for Post-Quantum Security Audit

The new funding follows the USAF awarding SandboxAQ a Phase 1 contract in November to conduct post-quantum cryptographic inventory analysis and performance benchmarking. 

Under the contract, SandboxAQ is conducting a feasibility study to determine how its suite of quantum-resistant security applications could assist the USAF in assessing its cryptographic security posture and implementing an end-to-end framework to protect USAF and Space Force data networks from quantum attacks.

This award was significant because it prioritized the implementation of innovative, dual-use technologies that could benefit national interests.

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